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 Since transparency is a favorite buzzword in today's enlightened society, I feel compelled to warn my beloved readers of my articles and essays, that this article is not about what you may think, given its title. I am not referring to radical ideas and behavior that masquerade as remaining within the boundaries of Jewish tradition and halachic norms. Rather, this article is about our synagogue here in Jerusalem that, because of governmental health regulations, has been forced to conduct its regular daily prayer services outside, rather than in the building of the synagogue itself.

The neighbors in the adjoining apartment building have been kind enough to allow the synagogue to erect a tent in its parking lot, and we conducted the Sukkoth holiday in its entirety in that parking lot. We did so, naturally, with proper social distancing and all who attended wore masks. In spite of the obvious difficulties that this engendered – we had very hot weather here in Jerusalem over the holiday – and the fact that quite a number of cats joined in the festivities, we experienced a wonderful holiday, and I felt the prayer services were very meaningful.
Human beings are the most adaptable of all creatures, and, perhaps, the Jewish people are the most adaptable of all human beings. As such, I was impressed but not surprised that the services were orderly, meaningful, heartfelt, and proper. I think that everyone benefited and enjoyed the experience of Orthodox prayer in the open environment of our neighboring parking lot.
One of the interesting, if not beneficial, results of our being in the open was that many people who usually do not regularly attend synagogue seemed to join our group. Perhaps even more importantly, of the many Jews, who, unfortunately, abound here in Israel who have never set foot into a synagogue out of fear of tarnishing their secularism, were witnesses to what synagogue prayers actually look and feel like.
I am certain that they gained a changed perspective from one that they previously held. One of the attributes of our father Abraham was that wherever he went he conducted services to the Lord, and called onto God's name so that even passersby gained an understanding that there is a creator, and that God has entrusted humans with missions of goodness and holiness.
It is this attribute of Abraham that marked him for special greatness and earned him the title of father of the Jewish people and much of human civilization as well. Conducting our prayers in the open afforded us the opportunity to emulate, in our own small way, the activities and mission of our father Abraham. There is a freedom that somehow one feels outside of the confines of the building that one does not feel even within the air-conditioned comfort and splendor of the four walls of a synagogue building.
This feeling is difficult to describe, but, somehow, I felt it to be present within me. This, of course, is only the rumination of an elderly rabbi, but I do not feel that these comments are really off the mark.
I join with all of Israel and the world in hoping and praying that this corona scourge will soon pass. We will then be able to restore ourselves to what we will then call normalcy, though I doubt that it will exactly resemble the old normalcy that we were accustomed to before the Corona pandemic struck.
In any event, we certainly intend to return to the confines of the building of our beloved synagogue and conduct teaching classes, lectures, and prayer services within that building on a very regular basis. With the winter approaching, we will undoubtedly need the protection of the walls of the building, a heating system that functions well and an environment that keeps us healthy and comfortable.
Nevertheless, I am certain that we will all have a taint of nostalgia regarding the times that we were able to pray and conduct our services in the open, for all to witness. Thus, in every difficult situation some measure of goodness and understanding can be extracted, treasured, and incorporated into our new being. So, when we return to our hoped-for normalcy, I think we should attempt to retain some of the gifts of praying in the open and conducting our prayer services under the canopy of heaven directly.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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